Recent Pinterest data reveals that saves related to tai chi are up 189 percent. Initially created as a form of self-defense, today tai chi has evolved into a gentle and restorative form of fitness that's often described as a "moving meditation" and an "art that embraces the mind, body, and spirit." The Mayo Clinic lists stress reduction, increased energy, and improved flexibility, balance, and muscle strength as benefits of tai chi.
Is tai chi the new yoga? We looked into the basics, from the science to getting started, to learn more about this ancient Chinese exercise that's just now taking the modern fitness world and our social media feeds by storm.
What is tai chi?
When searching for photos or videos of tai chi online, you'll likely see practitioners moving slowly and gracefully through a series of movements with great focus. Though tai chi appears to be in slow motion, it's actually a practice of constant motion accompanied by deep breathing. Each pose effortlessly flows into the next without any breaks.
According to the Tai Chi for Health Institute's website, "The essential principles [of tai chi] include mind integrated with the body, control of movements and breathing, generating internal energy, and mindfulness. The ultimate purpose of tai chi is to cultivate the qi or 'life energy' within us so it flows smoothly and powerfully throughout the body."
The website goes on to explain that by consistently practicing tai chi, you'll be able to more easily access and even enhance your internal energy. "This process leads to a more balanced mental state. At the same time, your fitness, agility, and balance will improve."
Like yoga, tai chi has many different styles. Some of the most popular ones are Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Though each share the same essential principles described above, some may emphasize the martial arts and self-defense elements of the practice (in which case, the movements are performed more rapidly), while others focus on pain relief or mental clarity.
Is tai chi right for me?
The Mayo Clinic advises that since tai chi is low impact (meaning, your muscles and joints don't undergo much stress, especially when compared to exercises like running or HIIT), it's "generally safe for all ages and all fitness levels." Because of this, tai chi is especially encouraged for older adults who may not be exercising much or at all. Of course, we always recommend consulting your doctor or a medical professional before making changes to your current routine.
I want to get my qi flowing!
If you're interested in beginning a tai chi practice, the good news is that you can practice it any where and any time—no equipment necessary. A YouTube search returns dozens of results for beginner-level tai chi exercises, such as this 24-step routine with over three million views. Dr. Paul Lam, the director of the Tai Chi for Health Institute, also has a video lesson for beginners.
We love that tai chi, like other eastern practices such as yoga, emphasize the mental and emotional benefits of the practice. While the ability to touch our toes is always welcome (and that's not a bad reason to practice tai chi, either), it's often easier to make healthy choices for our bodies when we're calm and content.
So, are you ready to strengthen your life force and energy? We're excited to see tai chi take over living rooms, parks, and gyms (not to mention Pinterest feeds) in 2018.